Cairns - Replenishable Energy
Narrator: As the gateway to the tropics of North Queensland, Cairns lies at the doorstep to the world famous Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. Higher up in altitude, and inland to the great dividing range, lies the Atherton Tablelands. With its combination of elevation, rich volcanic soils, humidity and rainfall, culminating together to create these diverse growing conditions, this fertile plateau and agricultural heartland is teaming with growers and primary producers whose products are exported across Australia, and all over the world. Cultivating both banana and avocado plantations, growers like Serra Farming operate on an incredible magnitude, supplying Australian supermarkets all along the Eastern seaboard with their fresh produce.
David: We're growing bananas, we've got 100 hectares of bananas on this site, it's predominantly irrigated from the Tinaroo Dam channel system.
Narrator: With water being the vital source of life for growers in this region, the energy costs needed to pump 800 million litres of water each year across this 250 acre site, is among the largest expense for farming operations like these.
David: The irrigation system runs 24 hours a day, probably 320 days of the year, and so as you can imagine it's quite a large energy user.
Narrator: The other major source of power absorbed in a business like this, are the warehousing, packaging, and refrigeration costs for this never-ending production line of freshly grown bananas. So investing in solar power is one expense they can mitigate to help them run a leaner, more profitable business.
David: Very often we're price receivers, so the only way we can move forward with our business and make positive changes to our bottom line is by reigning in our costs. That's what we're doing with the solar, which in dollar figures, it could represent up to $140,000 a year of savings. So yeah, to us it was a no brainer.
Narrator: Achieving these large power savings means they need to instal an equally large volume of high efficiency solar panels. So using these high wind load rated LG panels, connected across multiple sites on ground mounted rails, is the best solution for large scale solar deployments like these.
Rollo: There's 300 kilowatts getting installed, we're what in the midst of it now. We've done 80 kilowatts in the main packing shed. Also down here, the irrigation pumps, there's 100 kilowatts here as we speak, and they've got two other sites and two other farms for avocados, which are 40 kilowatts each. So all up 300 kilowatts.
Narrator: And with all of this energy supplied from the sun, comes the ability for farmers like Dave to feed all of the excess power back into the local township.
David: Yeah, it gives extra power to the community, and hopefully over time, will help to lower the cost of power.
Narrator: Nearby in Mareeba, coffee plantation owner, Robert Jaques, is all too familiar with the rising costs of energy. Spanning 200 acres and with 85,000 arabica coffee trees in their plantation, the Jaques' family have been growing, harvesting and roasting their very own coffee beans since the 1970s. It's this family owned business that have been pioneers in the Australian coffee industry, as they seek to innovate their operations and their sustainability.
Robert: We have various pumps around the property that are consuming electricity, we also have four residences here as well. So along with the residences, the factories, the cafe, the kitchen, the pumps, there's a lot of energy usage to keep a farm going.
Narrator: So mitigating the costs of running their business with solar here in Mareeba makes great sense, when they have an abundant 360 sunny days each and every year. Although being a harsh climate, also means these solar systems must be capable of working in extreme heat.
Rollo: Being that Mareeba is an hour West of Cairns, it does get quite hot there, so temperature coefficiency for the panel is crucial. If you buy or select a panel that is just par or sub-par, you're going to notice the performance output compared to a high quality LG panel.
Narrator: It's a little known fact that as the weather gets hotter, cheap or low grade solar panels will fail to perform in the heat, and this is what's known as the temperature coefficient. So it's high quality panels like these with a high temperature coefficient, that are helping businesses across the Atherton Tablelands harness more energy savings.
Robert: If you're not using solar power, you're costing A) lot of extra carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere, B) your hip pocket, that's the make consideration. And you tell me, has power gone down in the last few years, or has it just gone up?
Narrator: Being such a hot climate means higher power costs are not only felt by farmers, but also by the people living all across Cairns. Where energy costs skyrocket due to the use of appliances like air conditioning, or equipment like pool pumps. It's in taking the hot and sunny conditions of this tropical Northern part of the country, and trapping all of this sunshine for homeowners and businesses alike, that means this big energy consuming community, is now transitioning into a big energy producer. And it's all of this clean and green solar power that is 100% replenishable energy.